With absolutely no disrespect to Old Monk (which we love, cross our hearts), it’s time the Indian rum drinker moved on from the jovial eremite and sampled some truly fine rums from around the world. Although India is the world’s largest rum market, with the world’s largest selling rum brand (McDowell’s No.1 Celebration), the number of rum drinkers in this country has been rapidly outpaced by those who prefer the amber delights of whisky (India is also the world’s largest whisky market — clearly we like our tipple). One of the reasons for this has been the sheer number of whiskies that has become available — in comparison, the rum drinker has had to be content with much less, by way of choice. Even a trip through a duty free shop sees them confronted with shelf upon shelf of whisky, with rum occupying a small, poorly-populated corner. Nevertheless, a sip from one of these bottles will go a long way towards gladdening the soul.
Amrut Two Indies
The makers of one of the world’s top-rated single malt whiskies, the Bengaluru-based Amrut Distillery also has a superb rum in its portfolio — Two Indies, a blend of Caribbean rum and Indian pot still sugar cane rum. Uniquely, jaggery is used to batch craft this rum, lending it a distinctive flavour. There’s a buttery, nutty base to it, with plenty of caramel and treacle notes and a slightly dry finish. Two Indies isn’t widely available around the country yet, but it certainly deserves to be. If you’re making a trip to Bengaluru, be sure to pick up a bottle or three.
Havana Club 7-Year
The world’s 5th-largest selling rum brand, Havana Club is an established favourite in the rum world, operating as a joint venture between the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard (Bacardi also has a Havana Club rum, and is in a copyright spat with Pernod Ricard). The 7-Year version is smoky and molasses-heavy, with strong hints of raisins and dates, with a bit of tobacco creeping into the mix. It goes down the throat with a bit of spiciness, and there’s a dark, slightly oily finish to it. This rum blends well with cola and other mixers, but it’s quite enjoyable on its own, too. You can find it at most higher end liquor stores.
Yes, this is the same Angostura that makes the famous bitters — not many know that the firm also makes great rum. This version is not as expensive as another variety named 1824, but it’s just as good — for a third of the price. As soon as you pour it, a decidedly fruity aroma wafts into the air, with hints of peach, orange and apricot, as well as oak. The first sip reveals a combination of butterscotch, oak and orange, and the finish is warm and dry, with a hint of pepper. This one is best had neat, although it goes very well with cola.
Ron Zacapa Centenario 23
This amazing rum has been available in India for a while now, along with its more expensive cousin, Zacapa Centenario XO, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Made from sugarcane in Guatemala, the rum is aged in cellars at over 7000 feet in the Guatemalan mountains, and the end result is pure magic. Note that this isn’t a 23-year old rum; rather, it’s a blend of rums that are between six and 23 years old. In the glass, you’ll get a heady whiff of raisins, brown sugar, molasses and chocolate; the first sip will have you thinking of vanilla, orange, fruits and spices. Down the throat, this rum is smooth and just slightly bitter, which is an interesting counterpoint. Not surprisingly, this one is best enjoyed neat.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
Trust us when we say that you haven’t had a fine rum if you haven’t tried this stunner from Venezuela. A blend of rums that are up to 12 years old, Diplomatico is made from pot still and column still rums. It has one of the most captivating bouquets in the rum world — rich, sweet and reminiscent of caramel and walnut — and a stunning colour in the glass. It’s best to let this rum sit in your glass for a bit, to let it express itself fully; when it does, the result is fabulous. Keep in mind that this is a sweet rum, but not cloyingly so — you’ll find hints of cinnamon, caramel, brown sugar and nutmeg, among others. It goes down the throat smoothly, like honey, and you will be sorely tempted to gulp at the remainder of the contents. Resist the urge and slowly savour one of the best rums on the planet. Mixers? Perish the thought.